A smart approach to balancing the wellness equation

Healthy living isn’t just about more exercise, nor is it simply eating better. It’s striking a balance between the two.

You may have heard the saying, “You can’t outrun a bad diet”.

Well, it’s true.

Lamentably that extra commitment on the treadmill doesn’t offset eating too many muffins. Likewise, meticulously adhering to a strict dietary plan but living like a couch potato could also have a negative physical impact.

To live healthily the goal needs to be healthy living, and that means balance.

Aim to strike equilibrium between eating well and being active.

“Nutrition and exercise are like two sides of the same coin, so it’s important to think about the two together,” accredited exercise physiologist Carly Ryan says.

“Nutrition is about giving your body the fuel it needs to work at its optimum, and exercise is about keeping your body functioning at its optimum.”

But healthy living is not a 50/50 or 70/30 equation between diet and exercise. It’s about understanding what each means and applying such an approach to your lifestyle.

How much should I exercise?

Humans are designed to be active, so it makes sense we suffer when we’re not.

Lack of exercise can lead to weight gain, cardiac decline, loss of muscle mass, loss of bone density, and an increased risk of a range of health conditions, including arthritis, diabetes and some cancers.

Australian guidelines recommend being active most days and accruing 2½ to 5 hours of activity every week. That’s around 20-40 minutes a day. This can be moderate intensity, vigorous, or a combination of both. It can even be accumulated in 10-minute blocks if that works for you.

“General recommendations are to include a combination of cardiovascular and strength training exercises that work your whole body,” Carly says.

“There are so many activities under these categories, so find an activity you enjoy. In addition, consider adding flexibility exercises to your routine – this will keep your body mobile and help recovery and performance.”

What should I eat?

Nine ways to master mindful eating.

This doesn’t have to be a tricky question, but we’re seemingly so bewitched by all manner of dietary regimens and eating plans tantalising us with “proven” results and promises of eternal vigour that we over-think the issue.

Essentially, healthy eating means enjoying a variety of nutritious foods.

This is fare dietitian Kate Di Prima describes as “core foods” and includes red meat, chicken, fish, veggies and salads, fruits, healthy dairy foods, avocados and healthy fats.

Importantly, we need to look at how much we eat.

Kate recommends controlling portions by dividing your plate into three sections. “Half your plate should be filled with veggies and salad. A quarter should be meat, legume, egg, fish, or a type of protein, and the remaining quarter filled with rice, pasta, potatoes or bread,” she says.

Where do I start if I need to lose weight?

Both diet and exercise should be part of any healthy weight loss approach, as they go hand in hand.

“We often talk about the weight loss equation where you need to burn more energy than you consume to achieve weight loss,” Carly says.

“In reality, achieving and sustaining weight loss is a little more complicated as there are many factors involved, but the basic equation is a good place to start.”

“In the early stages of weight loss, eating patterns have a greater impact as it is easier to reduce energy intake than it is to burn energy. Over time, however, exercise becomes important, and is crucial in the maintenance phase.”

Striking the perfect balance – tips for healthy living

  • Doing any physical activity is better than none. If you currently don’t do any exercise, start by doing some and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
  • Accumulate 2½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1¼ to 2½ hours of vigorous intensity each week. Or an equivalent combination of both.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
  • Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods, including vegetables (comprising different types and colours, legumes and beans), fruit, grain foods (mostly wholegrain), lean meats, milk, yoghurt and cheese every day.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Limit alcohol and foods containing saturated fat, added salt and sugars.
Source: Australian Government Department of Health

Written by Claire Burke